Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Insights from the Mat

This is a post I have been thinking about for a while, cultivating the thoughts and words in my head. Although there are many scriptures that I love to read and draw comfort from, there are two, well, maybe three stories in the Bible that I find myself relating most to. Maybe you could say they are my tried and true favorites.

First would be the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead in John 11. I'm sure we can all think of ways, even today as you sit reading this, when God didn't act according to "your" timing. You thought He would do things one way, and at least for a while, you were disappointed that He didn't do things the way you thought He would. I love reading Jesus' words to His disappointed and doubting friends..."Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" I have heard more sermons and studied more of this chapter (in Sunday School) in the last six months that I probably have in my lifetime.

But I'm not going to talk about Lazarus.

Also, I really love, love, love the story of Mary and Martha preparing for Jesus to come visit. Martha is twittering around the kitchen, probably slamming around the pots and pans and sighing pointedly as she feels like her sister is leaving all of the hard work up to her. But there sits Mary, as the feet of Jesus, listening to all He has to say. And she chose what was better by far, and it could not be taken away from her.

But I'm not going to talk about Mary and Martha.

Last spring at a retreat, I heard what was probably one of the best messages on Mark chapter 2 that I have ever heard. It resonated in me then, and I had not even experienced all that we have had happen in the last year. In Mark 2, Jesus is speaking at a house in town, and it is wall to wall with people who have come to hear him....literally, packed and overflowing. There was a man who was a paralytic who wanted to get to Jesus. I don't know what his faith was expecting...a healing touch, comforting words, just a glimpse of this man called "Messiah." He was put on a mat and four of his friends carried him, probably miles and miles, to this house. Once they got there, they realized there was no way of getting inside. Some would have given up, turned around, and gone home. Some may have sat down outside the house and waited for Jesus to come to talk to them outside. But not these friends.

After carrying the dead weight of their paralyzed friend all the way to the house, they continued to carry him up the outside stairs to the roof. The roofs in this day were flat, and considered a place to "hang out"...kind of the front porch of our day. Despite how tired they were from their trip, they got down on their hands and knees and started digging through the roof. I guess as I have read this in the past and read that they "made an opening" in the roof, I picture them getting out some handy saw or power tool of some sort to cut a neat little window in the roof. Not possible here. This roof was made of mud, dirt, straw. It was dirty. And these four friends were getting dirty in it, probably clawing away an opening with their bare hands and desperation for their friend.

Once they made an opening, they lowered him down. Can you imagine being there inside the house listening to Jesus? Maybe you were a lucky one to get a good spot right in front of him, or even lucky enough to sit in a window and catch a fresh breeze as he spoke. Either way, there is no room for moving with all of the people there. And then, you look up and see the roof starting to cave a little. Dirt and dust start falling on your head. And then, well, somebody better move, because there is a grown man being lowered on top of you.

And Jesus notices. He notices the faith of the friends to go to that extent to bring their friend to Jesus. And he notices the faith of the man to allow his crazy friends to do what they just did. He notices....and he acts. He heals the man, first of his sins, and then of his paralysis. He heals the man's sins first, knowing that until that happens, none of the other acts will be noticed or appreciated for the miracle they are. He heals the mans sins because the paralysis of his heart is greater than the paralysis of his legs. He heals the mans sins first, and then so the people in the house would truly "see" and believe, Jesus heals the man's legs. Because sometimes we need that much of a visual to understand what Jesus is truly doing.

I love this story, because even though I have heard it many times throughout my life, I have realized that sometimes I am one of the four friends. Sometimes I am carrying one of my friends or loved ones to Jesus, tired, weary, and desperately doing anything to get them in front of Him. To get them "seen." Sometimes we have to get down in the dirt with our friends, right where they are, and get dirty with them in an all-out attempt to help them see the face of the Savior.

But sometimes, I am the person on the mat. Sometimes I am being carried when my strength is gone. When my will would not matter on it's own, because it is so weary. There are those times when I can only look up from my jostling mat as it is carried, grateful that there are people who love me so much to make that trip. Grateful that people care enough to get dirty for me. I know that there are the times when my mind and my heart want to get to Jesus, but the road is long, and my legs don't work like they should. And so, I am carried.

I am grateful most of all for my Jesus, who sees me being lowered down, distracting so many from His sermon, likely stopping Him mid-sentence, and He stops to stoop down and see me. He knows that I would gladly jump up and hug Him if I could, but sometimes the healing I need is more than even I realize. I need Him to heal my heart first. Once that is done, I can gratefully appreciate when He heals all the rest of me.


Wendy said...

Thanks for your words today Amy - you are so gifted.

Beth said...

Wow. Those are some powerful insights. I have never thought about myself being the one on the mat before. Sometimes I think my friends and family have had to strap me to the mat so they can even have a chance of getting me to Jesus.

nickmal said...

What a beautiful word picture of friendship. What a friend we have in Jesus. :)